Folding laundry. Buying groceries. Washing dishes. Necessary, routine life maintenance. Chores and to-dos consume our time and attention, but still, we have an innate desire for some kind of connection, some level of intimacy, to each other, to our shared human experience. Art offers the opportunity to experience connection, and the May exhibition at the Downtown Artist Collective, found in THE BLOCKS, in downtown SLC, provides a touchpoint for casual community connection.
Artists endeavor to express a feeling, a thought, a moment, something slightly or profoundly deeper than what life typically demands we notice or respond to. This month’s Downtown Artist Collective works by three Utah artists focus on the use of color. Their grouped series, titled krōmə, are explorations of different points of connection to life events, circumstances, and thoughts.
In its third year of operation, The Collective is located in the heart of THE BLOCKS, Salt Lake City’s cultural core, in a relatively low-slung brick line-up of downtown small businesses. The polished interior eschews high-brow pretense and feels authentically welcoming. Member-artists staff and run the gallery business, and the space also functions as a community resource for workshops and classes. New exhibitions of member-generated works are introduced monthly, with opening receptions scheduled on the seasonal Friday night Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.
Micah Payan considers art as an opportunity for connection by providing the viewer the experience of seeing life through the lens of someone else, literally in her case. Micah’s “Are You Hallucinating?” photograph series uses vibrant, deep, jewel-tone colors to capture, as she says, “a very small moment taken to cinematic proportions.” She uses color to evoke a dreamlike impression. The images are intentionally meant to take familiar objects or moments and, through colored light manipulation and lens distortion, present photographs that are both intimate and slightly disturbing. “Photos have an intimacy,” she says, “and art forces you to see life from someone else’s perspective.”
Flanking Micah’s dramatically bold prints are mostly small mixed-medium works by artist Miroslava Vomela. Miroslava’s primary source of income is through her graphic design work, so spending time in the studio balances her computer time with creative time.
In contrast to the saturated splashes of color in Micah’s photographs, Miroslava’s collage work is exacting, precise and graphically calculated. Taken in as a whole, each piece is a well-balanced articulation of color, texture, and composition. Up close, the viewer can appreciate the details of brush and pencil strokes that both ground and embellish carefully cut and arranged magazine pictures. What are static images, Miroslava reinterprets into dynamic configurations. There is movement in this collection she calls “Amoeba.” Each of the diminutive pieces uses a general color palette of one predominant color. “I am attracted to small works right now because I can try out different things and learn a lot in a relatively short period of time,” she states. Miroslava also recognizes the fact that few people have ample wall space to hang large works of art, so she’s deduced that gallery visitors can connect with her art on a practical as well as a visual level.
Opposite her artist-peers work hangs Celine Downen’s collection of cyanotype prints. Celine’s statement accompanying this wall of blue-backed images evokes an immediate connection to the shared human experience. Upon reading of her family’s loss of her father, the viewer is connected to a feeling state, what Celine describes as “dark blue days.”
The light-processed images are representative outlines and details of snippets of nature, some feathers, and leaves, some entire plants. The creative process, she says, was relaxing and meditative. “I wanted to give myself permission to do something simple,” she explains. The use of plant bits and pieces that she has collected over the years, and particular herbs and delicate garden flowers represents elements of Celine’s life story and connection to family. To her they are symbols, but the images are also familiar enough that she understands other people can look at the prints and may experience a personal memory.
Each artist in this month’s Downtown Artist Collective exhibition has thoughtfully generated an opportunity for an accessible visual chat, so to speak, a relatively informal and convenient way to pay attention to life experience in a new, perhaps meaningful way. Stop in. Have a look. Give yourself permission to connect.
The Downtown Artist Collective is an important fixture of THE BLOCKS’ downtown social scene, located at 100 South 258 East. The gallery is open Saturdays, 2pm-6pm, and Sundays, 2pm-4pm, or by appointment. krōmə runs through June 14th.